ZTE Agribusiness Company Ltd, a Chinese firm, plans to establish a one million hectare oil palm plantation in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DR Congo) for biofuel production, reports China state media.
Zhang Peng, ZTE’s regional manager, told Xinhua that the plantation could yield up to 5 million tons of palm oil per year, 90 percent of which could be converted to biodiesel. He claimed that the plantation would employ “thousands” of local Congolese workers.
Xinhua didn’t specify whether production would be for local consumption or export, nor did it note the location of the plantation. Current oil palm production in DR Congo stands at around 240,000 metric tons, while demand is expected to grow to 465,000 metric tons in 2010 and 540,000 metric tons in 2015. Gas and diesel imports to DR Congo were 251,000 metric tons in 2006 according to the IEA, suggesting that biodiesel production from palm oil could meet the country’s entire demand for diesel and palm oil.
ZTE announced in 2007 that it would invest $1 billion in a 3 million hectare plantation. It’s unclear in the new announcement whether the firm has scaled back its plans or is simply starting on the first phase of development.
DR Congo was the world’s second largest palm oil producer in the 1960s but years of economic decline have left it as a minor producer.